Douglas still opposed to medical marijuana bill

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(Host) Governor Jim Douglas says he’s not sure if he could sign a compromise medical marijuana bill adopted by the House Health and Welfare Committee because he still has several major problems with the proposal. Meanwhile backers of the original marijuana legislation aren’t happy with the way that the committee has changed the bill.

VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports.

(Kinzel) The legislation adopted by the committee makes some key changes to the bill passed by the Senate last year – changes that the panel feels will restrict the number of people who will be eligible to use marijuana.

While the original Senate bill allows patients with serious and debilitating illnesses to use marijuana with the approval of their doctor, the House bill limits marijuana use to patients who have cancer, MS or HIV /AIDS. The House bill also shifts responsibility for creating a marijuana registry from the Health Department to the Department of Public Safety.

Douglas says the House bill is an improvement but he says it doesn’t address his fundamental concerns with the entire concept:

(Douglas) “I don’t know what I can or can’t sign at this point. There’s a collision between federal and state law if something were enacted by the General Assembly. Secondly it’s a mixed message to young Vermonters in particular to whom we’re talking aggressively about the dangers of illegal drugs and urging them to make good choices in their own lives about health issues. So those concerns remain.”

(Kinzel) Burlington Rep. David Zuckerman, who’s been the lead advocate for this issue in the House, says he’s disappointed with the House compromise. And he says he’ll try to restore some of the Senate provisions when the issue hits the House floor for debate:

(Zuckerman) “They’re certainly looking at making changes to restrict who’s eligible to use it and I think really that’s something that doctors and the Agency of Human Services should be able to figure out. I think at this point they’re adding five people and taking ten people off based on the medical condition and I think that’s getting too specific.”

(Kinzel) The bill is now being reviewed by the House Ways and Means committee – it’s not clear when the proposal will be debated by the full House.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.

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